Disorderly Conduct: Breaching the Peace
The offense of disorderly conduct is broadly defined in Illinois, and charges can range from low-level misdemeanors to felonies. The purpose of the disorderly conduct statute is to maintain the public order and ensure that the public feels safe. While Illinois’s disorderly conduct statute covers many different offenses, from making bomb threats to peeping in windows to making false reports of domestic violence, the most common charges under the statute are for breaching the peace.
Breaching the Peace
To be convicted of disorderly conduct and breaching the peace, the prosecution must show that a defendant:
- Acted in an unreasonable manner;
- Alarmed or disturbed another person; and
- Provoked a breach of the peace.
The requirement that a defendant act knowingly means that the defendant must be aware of his or her actions. The defendant must breach the peace deliberately, and not by mistake. For example, a person may have a psychotic episode in a public place, such that he could not control himself and caused alarm to those around him. His actions, though they may have disturbed others and breached the peace, would not be sufficient to constitute disorderly conduct, because he did not act knowingly.
To show that the defendant actually alarmed and disturbed another person, witnesses to the defendant’s behavior must be called in to testify that they were, in fact, alarmed or disturbed. Under Illinois law, the alarmed and disturbed witness may not be a police officer.
Though a purpose of the statute is to preserve public order, a disorderly conduct charge does not require that the behavior be performed in public. For example, entering the house of an elderly woman and making vague, undefined threats constitutes disorderly conduct.
The disorderly conduct statute is so vague and broad because it would be impossible for the legislature to enumerate every way in which an offender could breach the peace. But possible actions that could constitute disorderly conduct include fighting in public, trying to incite violence, blocking traffic with a protest, or indirectly threatening bodily harm to another.
A violation of this section of Illinois’s disorderly conduct statute is charged as a Class C misdemeanor. It is punishable by a combination of up to 30 days in jail and a $1,500 fine. If the offender does not receive a jail sentence, then he or she must be sentenced with 30 to 120 hours of community service. If the offender is placed on supervision, then the supervision must be conditioned upon the completion of the community service.
Disorderly conduct charges can sometimes be hard to prove, and an experienced lawyer may be able to help you avoid conviction or negotiate a favorable plea deal. Please call the experienced Naperville criminal defense attorneys at Law Office of Glenn M. Sowa, LLC for a free consultation.